Mistaken – Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan is a man of many talents – director of fantastic films such as The Crying Game and Mona Lisa as well as a successful novelist.  I really enjoyed Shade, his last novel published in 2005 so I’d been eagerly anticipating the appearance of Mistaken. 

Mistaken begins with the funeral of Gerald Spain, once a successful author, who died suddenly in his mid fifties.  Our narrator, Kevin Thunder, was frequently mistaken for Gerald in his younger days, given their strong ressemblance.  Physically similar, the two men come from contrasting backgrounds, Kevin hails from Dublin’s Northside, an only child whose home is also a boarding house; Gerald comes from the more affluent Southside, Palmerston Park.  As Kevin’s story unfolds he gradually realises that he has a doppleganger out there, a situation which can have both pros and cons. 

 The boys move to and fro, with chance encounters, mistaken identities in a type of macabre dance.  Kevin envies Gerald’s money and social class and feels like a shadow-being, perhaps some sort of vampire feeding off his double’s apparent glamour.  It’s quite appropriate then that Kevin lives next door to the house where Bram Stoker spent his childhood.  The notion of a partial existence, of a life half lived, of regrets is echoed in the presence of a shadowy figure who seems to haunt Kevin – is this a figment of his imagination or a real threat?

Mistaken is an intense novel which requires the full concentration of the reader.  Even though it crosses time and continents, it remains a Dublin novel, with many chapter titles referring to different locations in the city.  It’s a novel about loss and regret which makes you wonder about what other lives you might have led, given a second chance.  It’s a very atmospheric and evocative read and one which I highly recommend.

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